Thoughtful is good, prepared is essential

Laura Huenneke

          By Laura Huenneke, Provost

Lately I’ve thought a lot about preparedness. I read a book recently about the characteristics of disaster survivors—what distinguishes those who make it off the crashed plane or out of the burning building, while others freeze or panic. And I’ve watched several university police presentations on the best way to respond to possible violence on campus.

It all leads me to wonder: How do we choose to prepare?

Drop in and visit
Wednesday, Jan. 30, at University College open house in Bury Hall, noon to 12:45 p.m.

Plane crashes and campus police emergencies are rare events, thankfully. But looking ahead is part of good planning and leadership, even if the future is not highly predictable. We don’t know what NAU may face in coming years. Relapse of the state’s economy? Rise of competition that greatly reduces our enrollment? We must prepare without betting too heavily on any one future, planning to identify options while retaining flexibility.

We need to reconnoiter the shifting landscape, whether student demographics or rapidly evolving technology and competition. We must also remain clear-eyed and realistic about our own capabilities, resisting complacency about the obvious value of our programs while remaining deeply thoughtful about what we can actually demonstrate about their quality and impact.

Academia is often ridiculed for being over-conservative and slow to respond to the changing world. We should indeed be thoughtful, but we can’t afford to close our eyes to the possibility of major—even sudden—change.